PETALING JAYA: Muslims in Malaysia should take heed of Prophet Muhammad’s religious tolerance as he actively promoted peace and compassion for all non-Muslim minorities living in Arabia.
Chairman of Academy for Civilisation Studies Dr Ghazali Basri told the Star Online that it was unfortunate that many Malaysian Muslims were not well informed about the past history in understanding and respecting other faiths.
“Sadly, they are only being taught in terms of ritual worships, but not in the discipline of philosophy of comparative religion,” he said.
Referring to the uproar over the surau at a resort that was used by a group of Buddhists for meditation in Johor recently, Ghazali said this wouldn’t have been an issue during Prophet Muhammad’s time.
He cited an example recorded by one of earliest historians in Islam, Ibn Ishaq who had narrated that the…
Prophet had allowed Christian patriots from Najran to pray in the mosque, even with their religious cross on.
“He allowed them to pray in their way with the symbols. From this, we have arrived to the case of no difference between the cross and the deity the Buddhists brought in the surau,” he said.
Ghazali, who specialises in interfaith studies, also said that the call to demolish the surau was not necessary as Islam never condones any demolition of places of worship.
“Even in the Quran, in chapter 22 verse 40, it states that the Muslims are duty bound to protect places of worship, such as synagogues, churches, temples or mosques, in which names the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure,” he said.
Ghazali also said that Malaysia should learn from other examples of religious tolerance, citing a recent report about a church in Aberdeen, Scotland which opened its doors to Muslims for daily prayers due to space constraint in the mosque.
“In Islam, we apply the principle of fiqhs (fundamentals of jurisprudence) that is when we face difficulties, there’s a way out. A place of worship is a sacred place, as long as you don’t pray towards the cross,” he explained.
He further suggested that Malaysia should start introducing comparative religion subjects especially in higher education or in teacher education.
“This will only open up the door to understanding people’s religions and not belittling them, while strengthening and respecting their religions,” he said.